Bob Dylan gave his Nobel Prize Lecture this week. You read the transcript or you can listen to him speak the lecture on the Nobel Prize Organization web site. It's a beautiful work of art in its own right. In the course of the lecture, Dylan retells the story of three books — Moby Dick, All Quiet on the Western Front, and The Odyssey. It offers fascinating insight into his sources and his art.
"Our songs are alive in the land of the living. But songs are unlike literature. They're meant to be sung, not read. The words in Shakespeare's plays were meant to be acted on the stage. Just as lyrics in songs are meant to be sung, not read on a page. And I hope some of you get the chance to listen to these lyrics the way they were intended to be heard: in concert or on record or however people are listening to songs these days. I return once again to Homer, who says, 'Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story.' "
One comment in the lecture sheds real light on Dylan's work:
"By listening to all the early folk artists and singing the songs yourself, you pick up the vernacular. You internalize it. You sing it in the ragtime blues, work songs, Georgia sea shanties, Appalachian ballads and cowboy songs. You hear all the finer points, and you learn the details.
"You know what it's all about. Takin' the pistol out and puttin' it back in your pocket. Whippin' your way through traffic, talkin' in the dark. You know that Stagger Lee was a bad man and that Frankie was a good girl. You know that Washington is a bourgeois town and you've heard the deep-pitched voice of John the Revelator and you saw the Titanic sink in a boggy creek. And you're pals with the wild Irish rover and the wild colonial boy. You heard the muffled drums and the fifes that played lowly. You've seen the lusty Lord Donald stick a knife in his wife, and a lot of your comrades have been wrapped in white linen."
That reminds me of the Dylan album I have most often listened to over the years, Good as I Been to You (1992). He arranges and sings versions of classic folk tunes.
The cowboy ballad Diamond Joe tells the story of humankind from Homer and Moby Dick to the present moment:
"And when I'm called up yonder
And it's my time to go,
Give my blankets to my buddies
Give the fleas to Diamond Joe."
Ken Friedman, PhD, DSc (hc), FDRS | Editor-in-Chief | 设计 She Ji. The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation | Published by Tongji University in Cooperation with Elsevier | URL: http://www.journals.elsevier.com/she-ji-the-journal-of-design-economics-and-innovation/
Chair Professor of Design Innovation Studies | College of Design and Innovation | Tongji University | Shanghai, China ||| University Distinguished Professor | Centre for Design Innovation | Swinburne University of Technology | Melbourne, Australia
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